New charges next week in Nevada quadruple killing case

Published 01-25-2019

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RENO, Nev. (AP) - The top prosecutors in two Nevada counties said Friday they'll announce next week how they plan to prosecute a 19-year-old from El Salvador identified as the prime suspect in four recent killings and currently jailed in the state capital city.

District attorneys Mark Jackson in Douglas County and Chris Hicks in Washoe County have promised murder charges against Wilber Ernesto Martinez-Guzman in the shooting deaths of two women in their homes south of Carson City and a couple in their home in Reno.

Jackson and Hicks said in a statement that they plan to reveal on Monday the charging decisions they've reached. Jackson declined to say Friday whether anyone else would be charged in the case.

The announcement is scheduled in Reno, where Martinez-Guzman could be tried.

Authorities say Martinez-Guzman is in the U.S. illegally, and the case has drawn intense national interest - including the attention of President Donald Trump.

The president this week tweeted that the four killings in Nevada showed the need for his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall then at the center of the federal government shutdown.

Martinez-Guzman is jailed in Carson City, where he was arrested last Saturday on a federal immigration hold and charged Thursday with possessing weapons and selling jewelry belonging to some of the dead.

His newly appointed public defense attorney, Karin Kreizenbeck, declined outside court to talk about the case. Kreizenbeck did not immediately respond Friday to requests for comment.

Carson City Deputy District Attorney Melanie Brantingham said prosecutors know little about Martinez-Guzman's whereabouts prior to the launch of an investigation into the homicides.

Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong had said Martinez-Guzman's only known contact with authorities was a speeding ticket last February.

"We don't know exactly when he got here or why he came," Brantingham told reporters afte

Martinez-Guzman is jailed in Carson City, where he was arrested last Saturday on a federal immigration hold and charged Thursday with possessing weapons and selling jewelry belonging to some of the dead.

His newly appointed public defense attorney, Karin Kreizenbeck, declined outside court to talk about the case. Kreizenbeck did not immediately respond Friday to requests for comment.

Carson City Deputy District Attorney Melanie Brantingham said prosecutors know little about Martinez-Guzman's whereabouts prior to the launch of an investigation into the homicides.

Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong had said Martinez-Guzman's only known contact with authorities was a speeding ticket last February.

"We don't know exactly when he got here or why he came," Brantingham told reporters after Thursday's arraignment in Carson City Justice Court.

Hicks' spokeswoman, Michelle Bays, said this week that key questions for Hicks and Jackson were whether Martinez-Guzman would be prosecuted at one time and in one place for the four cases in two jurisdictions. He could be prosecuted separately in rural Minden or in Reno, northern Nevada's largest city.

In Carson City, he faces a Feb. 8 court hearing to determine if there is enough evidence for trial on felony and misdemeanor burglary, stolen property and weapon charges.

Pawn broker Allen Rowe, owner of several Northern Nevada Coin stores, said Martinez-Guzman was seen on video and used a passport for identification at the Carson City store where he is accused of sell

Carson City Deputy District Attorney Melanie Brantingham said prosecutors know little about Martinez-Guzman's whereabouts prior to the launch of an investigation into the homicides.

Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong had said Martinez-Guzman's only known contact with authorities was a speeding ticket last February.

"We don't know exactly when he got here or why he came," Brantingham told reporters after Thursday's arraignment in Carson City Justice Court.

Hicks' spokeswoman, Michelle Bays, said this week that key questions for Hicks and Jackson were whether Martinez-Guzman would be prosecuted at one time and in one place for the four cases in two jurisdictions. He could be prosecuted separately in rural Minden or in Reno, northern Nevada's largest city.

In Carson City, he faces a Feb. 8 court hearing to determine if there is enough evidence for trial on felony and misdemeanor burglary, stolen property and weapon charges.

Pawn broker Allen Rowe, owner of several Northern Nevada Coin stores, said Martinez-Guzman was seen on video and used a passport for identification at the Carson City store where he is accused of selling jewelry allegedly stolen from some of the dead.

Court documents allege that between Jan. 12 and Jan. 17, Martinez-Guzman collected $538 by selling rings belonging to two victims.

The case alleges that, because he is in the country illegally, Martinez-Guzman was prohibited by law from having the 12 guns stolen from a couple found dead Jan. 16 in their south Reno home.

Brantingham said she could not say if any of those weapons was used in the slayings. She doesn't anticipate the filing of any additional charges would change plans to try Martinez-Gunman on the existing charges in Carson City.

"Our charges will proceed as charged at this point," she said.

Furlong said the rifles and shotguns were found buried off a road on the outskirts of town and the .22-caliber handgun was found in a BMW in which Martinez-Guzman was arrested last Saturday.

The murder investigation began Jan. 10, when 56-year-old Connie Koontz was found dead in her home in Gardnerville, south of Carson City. Three days later, the body of 74-year-old Sophia Renken was discovered in her home about a mile (1.6 kilometer) from Koontz's house.

The dead Reno couple were found less than a week later. Gerald David and his wife, Sharon, who were 81 and 80, respectively, were prominent members and officers of the Reno Rodeo Association. One felony charge against Martinez-Guzman alleges he had several belt buckles bearing their names that were valued at up to $3,500.

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Ritter reported from Las Vegas. Associated Press writer Michelle L. Price contributed to this report from Carson City, Nev.

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